For the vast majority of us, the world of medical academic publishing is a mystery. Physicians and scientists work amongst the inner sanctum of academia in which the “publish or perish” mantra is alive and well. Tenure is heavily driven by both the volume of one’s publishing activity and the collective Impact Factor of the journals in which one is able to get published. The presumption is that Impact Factor has a strong correlation to the importance of the works.

What is less known about academic publishing is the extent to which it influences all of healthcare. Reimbursement guidelines, choices of which drugs and devices to use and much more are all influenced by this body of authors who are doing the cutting edge research and providing the industry thought leadership. Given the importance of this work, academic papers have historically been sacrosanct and largely immune to criticism. The peer-review process was almost untouchable except for occasional retractions.

Times have changed and the critical world of peer-reviewed medical journals is not only under fire for outdated processes and models, but the ethics of some of the leading journal publishers are being called to the mat.

In Friends Don’t Let Friends Publish in Elsevier Journals, the author Henry Farrell discusses a particularly troublesome practice in which Elsevier bundled papers from industry and packaged them to look like standard peer-reviewed journals. It also appears any disclosures were either entirely absent or minimal. The post is worth a look and that smoke we are starting to see in the academic publishing world is an indication of a much bigger fire on the near horizon.